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Asian Americans In St. Louis Raise Community Awareness Of Reporting Hate Incidents

Attendees of a weekend vigil to mourn eight people killed in Atlanta also called for Asian Americans to stand in solidarity against racism. Many who gathered brought signs to denounce anti-Asian discrimination.
Caroline Fan
Asian Americans gather at the Chinese Education and Culture Center in Richmond Heights to mourn the victims of the Atlanta shootings and call for solidarity as reports of anti-Asian hate incidents rise across the nation.

Asian American leaders in St. Louis are encouraging their communities to report hate speech, assaults and possible hate crimes to authorities.

The push follows a weekend vigil in Richmond Heights to mourn the eight people shot to death in Atlanta last week. Six of them were Asian women of Korean and Chinese descent. Their slayings sparked a national outpouring of grief and rage in Asian American and Asian immigrant communities across the country — and prompted many people to share their stories with people they know.

Asian Americans in the region often speak privately about the racism and discrimination they face, said Min Liu, community outreach director for the Chinese Education and Cultural Center in Richmond Heights. She said many tell her they often don’t know how to handle verbal assaults.

Parents Rulin (L) and Renzhi Liu (R) with Robert and baby Ryan Liu at the weekend vigil. #StopAsianHate was a trending hashtag on social media platforms last week in the aftermath of the Atlanta shooting.
Caroline Fan
Rulin and Renzhi Liu attend a weekend vigil with their children for eight people killed in Atlanta, where Asian Americans in St. Louis called for vigilance against racism. #StopAsianHate was a trending hashtag on social media platforms last week in the aftermath of the Atlanta shootings.

Liu worries racist incidents are underreported in the region. With that in mind, she and other community leaders want Asian Americans to understand that they can report them.

Asian American community organizers will meet Thursday with St. Louis County Police Chief Mary Barton and St. Louis City Police Chief John Hayden to learn more about how to report hate speech and hate crimes.

“Localized reporting allows us to better track and understand what may be happening here so that we could better talk to our local police and law enforcement,” Liu said. “Maybe this is more of an issue for the schools to collaborate with law enforcement with, or maybe it's something that we need to address at the community business level.”

The focus on raising awareness follows a weekend vigil for the Atlanta shooting victims and efforts by Asian American leaders to urge federal officials to address the rise in violence against their communities.

Hundreds gathered Saturday in the parking lot of the Chinese Education and Culture Institute. The Korean American Association, the Asian American Chamber of Commerce in St. Louis and groups representing the Chinese and Vietnamese communities came together to arrange the vigil.

“These last several months, we have continued to see the increase in violence targeted at our community, and we cannot stand for this harassment that not only affects us personally, but has a significant impact on our businesses,” Nguyen Violette, president of the Asian American Chamber of Commerce, said at the vigil.

Vigil attendees light candles to mourn the victims of the mass shooting in Atlanta.
Caroline Fan
Attendees of the weekend vigil light candles to mourn the eight victims of the Atlanta shooting, six of them Asian women.

“Just last week, I received a call from the St. Louis County police to inform me that there is a rash of crime specifically targeted at Asian-owned businesses,” Violette said. “It is this that must stop. This trend cannot continue. We must speak out.”

Asian Americans have reported 3,795 incidents to Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit reporting center. According to a recent report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino, racial incidents against Asian Americans in 16 cities rose 150% in 2020.

Besides reporting hate crimes to authorities, Asian Americans also can report racist incidents to StopAAPIHate.org, Liu said.

“I think if we give people the vocabulary, if we give people the conversation starter, we will probably hear more reports of similar instances,” she said.

Follow Megan on Twitter: @meganisonline